This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
14 Aug 1991: Manuel, Trevor
POM Well I'm taking off today from some rather different points of departure so it may not actually make that much difference. There are a couple of things I'll take up with you on it, but I want to talk about the negotiations and it seems to me that you have, the ANC has a perspective of what the problem is about and that the government has a perspective of what the problem is about and that these are two perspectives that in large measure go past each other. Where do you find the common space to define the problem in a mutually agreeable way so you can start working towards mutually agreed upon objectives?
TM I think at one level it's important to understand why the perspectives miss each other and what we have laid on the table as such in respect of documents where you're talking about the constitutional principles or a justiciable Bill of Rights or a draft economic policy framework for a new South Africa, all of these relate to a broader project of self-democracy, a project which we believe will have process as important, if not more important, than product. What you need in this country is for people to respect the constitution for the very first time. In order to respect that constitution, that constitution must have legitimacy and that implies that you have to maximise participation or the say of the electorate in the making of that constitution. And that is where we come from because it is that reality that also deals with a situation like the very high expectations about delivery of a range of issues in the short to medium term. The participation and organisations demystifying some of the realities to ordinary people can realistically change that. On the other hand, the government from its starting point creates the sense, with virtually everything it does, that it desires to hold on to power. Now it would be naive to expect in any circumstances that you take political power and hand it over. It talks a language that sounds quite similar. It talks of a Bill of Rights. But that Bill of Rights is not supreme as are the amendments to the US Constitution for instance. We believe that it must be justiciary. So it sounds similar but in reality you're talking of different things. They've removed the racial framework from their perspective but one has heard de Klerk say on 3rd February this year that whatever constitution is negotiated needs to go back to the electorate, the present electorate and that electorate is the white electorate. And so to introduce an element of veto rights to the white electorate means that you are wilfully hamstringing yourself from proceeding.
POM But that's not really a promise you can keep without finding some broader way of including everybody, is it?
TM One has to, at this stage, deal with what there is on the table and ask why perspectives miss each other. So you have a situation like that (was it last week, two weeks ago?) when he addressed the country on Inkathagate, he again made the point that whatever constitutional change occurs needs to occur within the framework of the existing constitution. When one considers the fact that much of the present problems emanate from this extremely undemocratic constitution and when one considers the fact that the constitution is a normal Act of Parliament which can be amended or repealed by parliament, that there's nothing supreme about this constitution, to invoke the legitimacy of the constitution doesn't help the problem. Now given the fact that the perspectives are different to achieve overlap or confluence in and in respect of seemingly minor areas, it actually has to be won. I think that over the next few weeks a major project in relation to trying to deal with the violence ...
POM This is the churches?
TM Yes, yes. But there's a lot that's been happening behind the scenes. There's going to be a meeting today, there's going to be a Peace Convention on the 14th September. There has to, within that process, be very hard commitment from a range of different organisations including the government. That is hard won. It has been won because a number of organisations refused to attend de Klerk's Peace Conference and opted to go for the one convened by churches and business instead. There would be other instances as well, I mean the basis now for an All-Party conference, re-shaping ideas around an interim government, have all become more possible in the wake of the Inkathagate scandal.
POM Can I just hold you on Inkathagate then? I'm moving ahead a bit but I'll move back. Do you think that Inkathagate was the final proof that was needed that the government was in fact pursuing a double agenda, the olive branch on the one hand for negotiations and on the other hand working with Inkatha, or alone, to orchestrate violence and that would result in many deaths and undermine support for the ANC or the stability of the ANC? Do you not take that as a given, that this is what the government was doing?
TM I think it is something that we have been concerned about over a long time. When we released the open letter to the State President on 5th April, setting out a range of demands relating directly to the violence, including the dismissal of Vlok and Malan, the charging of police who have been implicated in various incidents of violence, for the government to come clean, I mean this is the gist of what we were not asking but demanding in our open letter. We were laughed out of court. We were treated extremely badly by the media. The government said 'produce proof'. The only thing that we could say was that a lot of the evidence that we have is circumstantial. We are not the police employed by the taxpayer to investigate and produce the hard evidence. That is in fact the task of the government. And in those terms, yes, the documentation revealed in Inkathagate was able to win a lot of support behind what we'd been saying over a long period and it did come to many as perhaps the final proof. What it didn't do, one hopes that even these kinds of issues will come to the fore quite soon, is to once and for all expose the hand of, and it's debatable whether it's formal instruction or a rogue element within the police force, but the hand of that in relation to conduiting automatic machine rifles from Mozambique, redistributing those, there have been other incidents come to light like the purchase of 24 .38s by the security police for use by Inkatha warlords. And that's being dealt with in court now. But I think the turning point in the whole issue was actually the judgment in the General Lothar Neethling case.
POM Is this from the Harms Commission?
TM No, it was outside of the Harms, but related. The Weekly Mail and Vrye Weekblad had picked up a story from Dirk Coetzee, a former member of the hit squad who is now in exile, about this General who heads the Police Forensics Lab. and so on, having issued him with poison to use against ANC combatants in some instances, and he sued these newspapers and the Judge found the stories to be so plausible. And that marked a turning point in the thinking of many people about the existence of death squads and so on and so fort. It was outside of the Harms Commission.
POM What I'm getting at is that we've spoken to quite a number of people on the Executive and one feeling that we get back is one of tremendous anger at the duplicity of the government. That while the government was making all these polite noises about the need for negotiations and full democracy, it was steadily working behind the scenes to undermine the ANC and that as a result of that the basis for trust was gone. Is the basis for trust gone?
TM You see to me it depends on your starting point. And perhaps my place of learning has been very different from other people. It would be naive to assume that a government that has been able to retain power for 43 years now has a representative of only 17% of the population who play cleanly. However, there needs to be some foundation of trust as an essential platform upon which to build negotiations. And I think that levels of scepticism abound within the ANC over a long period and the least of those would be, and I'm not one for one moment suggesting that our President ... , but in order to get the project under way Nelson Mandela has said repeatedly that F W de Klerk is a man of integrity. That was necessary to get the process under way but he's also said at various points, I think that at the time of the open letter in April he was very, very clear and he said it in an address to diplomats, he said it in an address to businessmen, he said it in an address to branches of the ANC, that he was keen to break off negotiations because of increasing evidence of the hand of the state in violence. I think that Inkathagate itself came as no surprise. It was something that I think that most people within the broader leadership of the ANC had hoped would have come six months earlier.
POM I'm getting at two things Trevor, one is that the belief in a double agenda is now more confirmed than ever, one. Two, this has undermined trust in the government because they were denying it all along. And third, you talk about of the need for some basis of trust for negotiations and you were talking about when this Peace Conference convenes or the report of the committee that's meeting on violence comes out, many parties will have to give hard commitments including the government. Can you believe commitments given by an opponent whom you now inherently distrust? What does that do to the process?
TM I think that in a perverse way it can actually facilitate the process because one now has a perch from which to suggest additional checks and balances to be put in place. I think what is far more damaging for de Klerk than Inkathagate is the blasé attitude of Pik Botha to the funding of the losing parties in Namibia. He goes on TV and says 'We took a hundred million of your money, the taxpayers, used it covertly to fund those parties because we don't like, like SWAPO'. The man who was running the operation said it was in fact a billion rand.
POM Foreign aid. On a large scale.
TM Covert funding, which is different from funding. Now all of that is good enough but when one considers it in the light of the fact that a commitment to non-interference in Namibia was formally signed in an agreement in New York by this regime, the horse begins to change its colour very, very rapidly. And it means that Inkathagate happened against that backdrop and it therefore affords the opportunity of ensuring that you don't only take the government at its word but that you insist on additional checks and balances. And I think that this gives us a low more power in the negotiations.
POM What would be the minimum confidence building measures that would have to be taken by the government for you to believe, if only a little sceptically, that they were now trying to act in good faith.
TM I think that what is more important than convincing the ANC National Executive is to do the kinds of things that demonstrate the clear agenda to the people of South Africa. The South African Council of Churches, for instance, have come up with the request to visit the camps cited in various reports as being the places from which hit squads operate. It's an interesting challenge because it happens against a backdrop of a repeated call from the ANC to de Klerk to visibly dismantle death squads, hit squads, bands of mercenaries and covert military and para-military operations. Those kinds of signals are important signals. We haven't quite seen that. I mean one newspaper report suggested that after the revelations by a certain Sergeant Felix Ndemeni, a Mozambican who was involved in the five reconnaissance units of the Defence Force, and I mean this guy came up with the Defence Force taking responsibility for mowing down people on the trains. Immediately in the wake of those revelations that base camp near Phalaborwa has actually been dismantled. That doesn't instil confidence. Those are the kinds of signals that are going to be important over the next few months.
POM Is there any possibility that because when you operate in the days of negotiations or working with the government sometimes adversarially, sometimes together, moving ahead incrementally, was it the grassroots as hearing that the government has been responsible for mowing them down and are very angry, that they don't understand your actions? That they find it difficult to hear on the one hand that you accuse the government of a double agenda, of using violence to destabilise the ANC, and then the ANC saying, well that being said, let's move ahead?
TM I think there were some interesting tests in the last period. For us the litmus test was, of course, the ANC's National conference held last month where the mandate to proceed with negotiations was overwhelming and it set out in clear detail in the resolution on negotiations. The second was in the light of Inkathagate the statement by the National Executive calling for an All-Party Congress now and that marked some shift from an earlier position where he was saying that until all the obstacles have been removed we shouldn't in fact make - or more particularly, as it was stated in the January 8th statement, the All-Party Congress can only happen once all the obstacles have been removed. And there are still political prisoners and the violence has not abated and the government has cleverly kept the UNHCR out of the process of repatriation and all of that has made it quite difficult, so that the obstacles have not really been removed. And we're making this call, it has been tested, perhaps with a very narrow constituency, but there is a very strong sense that it gives us the edge and therefore we must proceed and we must take responsibility for removing the obstacles. And I think one of the situations that does confront us is that people aren't in fact being alienated from the negotiation process by Inkathagate. I mean that's certainly the sense that we're getting from the grassroots.
POM But if I were the government I would say, 'Well, here's the ANC, they make a list of demands and say these obstacles must be removed before they go into negotiations and if we hold out long enough they bend, so they're malleable. We're getting a test of their mettle and the test is that - just hold out against these guys, give them three quarters of what they want and they'll settle for it.' Do you think there's any danger of that kind of message being sent?
TM Sure there's that danger, but I think that what this government needs in order to be able to do that is moral high ground. And what Inkathagate did was to switch that and they lost it.
POM Just in that context, what do you believe, or do you think that the National Party has a strategy, that they have thought this thing out in their head and, like you said earlier on, political parties and particularly governments don't willingly give up power, they try to hold on to it as much as possible. Do you think they have a strategy worked out as to how precisely they will achieve their objectives?
TM Yes, although I think a lot of this is on skid row at the moment. I think that the strategy method rests on a number of legs. One of the important legs is an appeal to the international community, which appeal is also directed at the white population of South Africa. Now if one looks at the UN Declaration on South Africa of December 1989, it asks one thing of the government and that is to create a climate for free political activity. The release of political prisoners, return of exiles, lifting the state of emergency, unbanning organisations, all of those all add up to the creation of a climate for free political activity as a precursor to full-on negotiations. On the other hand the CAAA(?) in the US asks some different things. And the way in which de Klerk has moved, it's interesting to analyse his speech of 2nd February 1991 in those terms, was to take the CAAA and address itself to that. And so he announced the intention to scrap some of the most obnoxious bits of apartheid legislation, like the Group Areas Act, the Land Act and parts of the Population Registration. But it's very carefully calculated because it leaves the substance of apartheid intact. It doesn't change living conditions. The Group Areas Act was non-functional for many blacks, for many middle class blacks. They're hardly the people who have been faced with the housing crisis. The market alone keeps people who were just recently robbed of their land away from ever returning and ideas of a Land Claims Court has been rejected out of hand by the government. The Population Registration Act and the scrapping thereof only applies to people who were born, I think, after 1st June this year, something like that. So that existing race classifications remain in place and of course separate education, I mean 11 different Health Departments, and all that fragmentation remains pretty much in place. So it hasn't changed the substance of apartheid because I think that somebody who recently did a scan came up with the fact that there are still 63 bits, or 63 Acts of Parliament, which are directly apartheid Acts, which remain in place.
Now that appeal certainly won a lot of applause in the international community, it said to Bush and to a number of other people that here is a reformer. But that was actually a very cleverly conceived smokescreen behind which the other legs of the strategy went to work. So that the climate for free political activity still does not exist with the violence and so on, but in other ways as well, a second leg would be to ensure that it is the government and not the ANC or anybody else who is capable of delivering. So you sign the Groote Schuur Minute and you sign the Pretoria Minute and you detail the cut off date for the release of political prisoners as 30th April. Not a target date but a cut off date. And come 30th April and there are still a number of political prisoners who remain in prison because Indemnity Committees were only set up on 26th April rendering the whole Agreement quite worthless.
POM Why did it take that long to get the Indemnity Committees going?
TM You see even then they didn't work because whilst the ANC had certain nominees they would have had to take an oath of secrecy which would have prevented them from discussing the issue with the organisation with the persons concerned and so on and so forth. So the Indemnity Committees had never really gotten off the ground. But it does mean that it certainly gives the government enough power to play around even with agreements that they sign. There is also the downgrading of the ANC. An important facet of that is the creation and funding of a range of surrogate parties and so towards an All-Party Congress you can then parade these.
POM Who would you include in those, other than Inkatha?
TM One can look at FIDA, UCASA - I mean there were a range of exposed groupings that were in fact created and funded by the government. When you look at Inkatha it takes on a very different magnitude because one of the issues there has been to elevate Inkatha to a status equal to that of the ANC, to elevate Buthelezi to a status equal to that of Mandela in an attempt to downgrade the legitimacy of the ANC. And in certain senses, and in certain quarters, that strategy seems to have struck a chord. How else could you describe, I mean, a simple indicator like the apportionment of funding from USAID where consistently polls conducted in this country have never given the ANC less than 50%? A lot of polls conducted have been considerably higher. And I have never seen a poll that gave Inkatha more than 8%. Most of them have been considerably lower. But the proportions determined by Congress for the funding doesn't take account of that kind of reality. There is a very determined attempt to equate to ... that simple indicator speaks volumes about that.
The notion that has come through from both de Klerk and Buthelezi repeatedly of a Troika which neither Nelson Mandela in his own right or the ANC would ever accept, that Troika being responsible for governing in the interim period. I mean it's an important leg of de Klerk's strategy. And then what Inkathagate confirms is destabilisation. It is more than the R250 000-00 that went to the funding of Inkatha rallies. You see what has not been explained and probably can never be explained away is why COWUSA ostensibly a trade union which has never engaged in any legal action or industrial action on behalf of its members, has never bothered apart from one very localised area to go for recognition agreements, why it was established and if the funding of Inkatha rallies had to come from the Foreign Affairs secret account why COWUSA remained as part of the law and order special funding up until the end of July. What has law and order got to do with a trade union?
It begins to take on a very different dimension if you then begin to piece together Police escorting people from hostels wearing red headbands into acts of violence against the communities without ever acting against those individuals. Stories of police arriving in Caspirs and off-loading steel trunks, presumably containing arms, at hostels and those kinds of things. Those kinds of issues fit into place and that destabilisation is then a fact. And it takes on many forms. At the one level there's a direct attack on ANC members. But at a more frightening level, areas where the ANC has some presence are just attacked without selection of who may be ANC members or who not. But it certainly sends ripples of fear. The ghastly attacks on trains, taxi ranks, taxis, buses, of innocent people sent some ripples, but it also creates the impression that it is better to live with white minority rule with its repression than democracy and majority rule.
POM Which become equated with violence and instability.
TM I mean all of that comes into it. You see the government, within that, acted extremely cynically. There was a whole fight around these lethal, so-called cultural weapons and round 1 goes to the ANC. It fights, it badgers, it screams, it petitions about how bad these weapons are and so the government amends legislation, in respect of certain areas, re the carrying of these weapons in public. And then suddenly Inkatha Chiefs and warlords and their bands of bodyguards, hatchet men, call them what you may, are suddenly issued with G3 semi automatic rifles which then take the place of the traditional weapons. That's an extremely cynical move, you see, because now these weapons are licensed and they are licensed by the same authorities who are meant to be disarming people.
But it speaks of that important leg of destabilisation and I think that has been the strategy of the National Party. There are other indicators as well, one of the first steps de Klerk took when coming to power was to downgrade the State Security Council which in the last years of the Botha era had been far more important than the Cabinet in terms of its decision making powers. And for a long time the State Security Council wasn't heard of. The day before de Klerk addressed South Africa in response to Inkathagate he had an all day session with the State Security Council. Suddenly it comes into very sharp focus. Today there is going to be a meeting around the peace process which was initiated by the conference convened by the churches and business, but before the government could come to this meeting those proposals had to be worked through the State Security Council and after that the Cabinet. Now where has the State Security Council been through all of this and why this role? One must also understand de Klerk's stand on the violence two weeks ago and the pretence that he didn't know.
POM Pretence that the violence ?
TM Or sorry, the funding, the Inkathagate issue. The pretence that he didn't know, whereas one of the first tasks that he went public on in 1989 was to request the full investigation by civil servants of that covert funding and so on. It was part of his saying 'I want to turn over a new leaf'. So that in context you see the pontification two weeks ago doesn't wash. But more importantly it gives a very clear picture of the totality of National Party strategy about the means through which it would hang on to power. And the net effect of Inkathagate is to render that strategy a lot more difficult.
POM I've been coming to that question of hanging on to power. The National Party or the government always talk in terms of the sharing of power. It comes up in every statement that they make. The ANC doesn't use the word transfer of power but many people when we talk to them say that in fact is what in fact these negotiations ultimately are about. It's about a transfer of power, not a sharing of power.
TM No. It's about a transfer of power from white minority rule to a very basic democracy. We see the sharing of power as a very interim phase and that is the phase of the interim government of national unity which must have a mandate constrained by time and task. It's job is to lay the basis for the constitution making mechanism which then sets democracy on the road. And so what the government articulates as an end product is for us a kind of stepping stone.
POM When the government talk about power sharing, how does the ANC interpret that? What does it understand the government is seeking to get, or to negotiate?
TM Essentially it is to retain as much of the present constitutional arrangements in place with joint management. A few days ago Gerrit Viljoen articulated their views on what they call transitional arrangements. And key to what he has been saying is the idea of a super Cabinet where you take people from amongst your adversaries and place them in a Cabinet above existing structures and so on. And all of the rest remains in place so that you create the semblance of joint decision making. You give them Posts and Telegraphs and Tourism.
TM You take Forestry away from Magnus Malan and you give it to them and you say 'Now we've shared it all out'.
POM I think we're talking about two different things. I'm distinguishing the form an interim government might take from what the National Party want to negotiate when they sit down at the negotiation table. There they are talking about power sharing as a result of the new constitution and after the new election there will be power sharing.
TM OK. I think one of the difficulties that even we find ourselves in is that the government is not laying its cards on the table. With our minimal resources we've produced a range of documents including constitutional principles. The government commissions, and this is in fact the National Party, but it's a government commission, Judge Olivier, the Law Commission to write up constitutional principles, but it appears as though he's had to take the oath of secrecy as well and so it's never been bared for the world to be able to evaluate that against where the ANC stands in respect of constitutional principles. And what we're doing is very careful conjecture, taking the essence of a number of statements made, especially by de Klerk and Gerrit Viljoen at various points, and trying to understand various trends from that. It's not good enough because you need to be able to place their principles side by side with ours.
But it seems as though there are important distinctions. At one level we're both talking of two Houses, a Lower House which would be on a single voters' roll as agreed upon. We also see a Senate as being important to provide regional representation. It's an important check and balance. And majorities and minorities are determined by political perspective rather than any ethnic characterisation. And so you may find a situation where you have a cut off point of, say, 4% in terms of proportional representation beyond which parties will not be represented. And you may have a situation where if the voting pattern should follow the existing polls, let's say Inkatha gets 8% of the seats, in the Lower House that 8% doesn't count for much but in the Senate you would then have regional representation and in terms of Natal you may get far more Inkatha members being represented. The government sees the Upper House as being primarily racially composed. Also the relationship in terms of legislative powers, our constitutional principles talk of the power of the Senate to delay. Gerrit Viljoen is on record as talking of the power of the Upper House to veto. And I think those mark substantial differences which at face value appears to be the same when you only consider the fact that both are talking about two Houses with different kinds of representation. And so if you have an Upper House racially defined and you shroud that in terms of protection of minorities, ethnic minorities, with veto rights, you are in fact clinging to what is an important principle of even the existing constitution, namely consociation.
POM OK, I want to get back to that. Just to pursue this for a moment.
TM I don't want to embark on discussion. There are better people to speak to. I mean our constitutional experts are down in Cape Town.
POM No, I want to move away from the constitution to say this, from the conversations we've had with members of the government, including Viljoen, one gets the impression that what they mean by power sharing is an executive role in government. That is to say that the National Party would still have a number of portfolios in the government itself, would be part of the Cabinet, they would be a partner in an alliance albeit the junior partner but nevertheless a partner. Would that kind of outcome be simply unacceptable to the black community?
TM What I have great difficulty in understanding is why they should be allowed to get away with anything short of one person one vote. And I think that there would be a great deal of resistance to that notion. Yes.
POM You don't see it as being an acceptable outcome?
TM No, no. I think our perspective remains pretty much that that may be OK in the short term.
POM In an interim government before a post-constitutional government?
POM The other point you mention was how what the government envisages retains bits and pieces of the present constitution in terms of ethnicity. I want to come back to that. There's a book recently been published by a man named Donald Horowitz who is a leading scholar in the States on divided societies, groups in conflict. He's recognised as being pretty authoritative and he recently brought out a book on South Africa in which he would argue that the evidence, when one puts together, looks at Africa as a whole, looks at studies done within Africa or South Africa, that the evidence suggests that South Africa is indeed a deeply divided society, not just along racial lines but also along ethnic lines. Now I've found that the debate about this falls along ideological lines. Whites by and large buy into it. Blacks by and large don't.
But I want to go back again really to the specification of the problem. When negotiators sit down to negotiate, do you say, 'Ladies and gentlemen, you are here to define the problem. The problem is that since 1910 and particularly since 1948 there has been unilateral white domination of black people. That must end and the imbalances be addressed. That's the problem you're going to negotiate'? Or do you say 'Gentlemen and ladies, the problem here is of two competing nationalisms, white nationalism and black nationalism?' Or would you say 'The problem here is both racial and ethnic. We have racial divisions where whites dominated blacks, were the minority and all power was in their hands, but we also have within each of these racial categories we have ethnic differences and those ethnic differences must be taken into account in a future governing structure because if we don't take them into account they can reappear later as they have in a lot of other places in Africa, or Sri Lanka or Cyprus, or Northern Ireland or other divided societies, and destabilise the whole government even though it's necessary to admit it rather than leave the problem unaddressed'?
TM I think that there are a series of contradictions. One of the first is of course white domination constitutionally entrenched which has afforded opportunities and advantage as opposed to oppression and disadvantage. And that is the key issue that one wants to address with these negotiations and the route is of course via the Constituent Assembly. The second contradiction is clearly a class contradiction in South Africa where you have, [as determined by the ... coefficient,] the greatest inequality of wealth as measured in 56 different countries. And that must therefore be addressed. And that is addressed primarily be means of a socio-economic platform which then addresses the redistribution of wealth. The third contradiction is an ethnic contradiction. It is in part historical and in part a very dynamic product of apartheid rule. I think we would be extremely naive to believe that that doesn't need to be addressed and that the form of the address becomes important. There are features like language and culture, and a range of other things that are inherent in South African society. What becomes important is whether that is used for the basis of inclusion or exclusion. I think that perhaps an unstated feature of de Klerk's strategy is a fomenting of that. The perception largely of the violence in our country has been a black on black, the Zulu/Xhosa, ANC/Inkatha. I think that it has taken that form largely. In classic terms I find it hard to distinguish between the right wing violence that occurred in Ventersdorp last week and the right wing violence against progressive communities or community organisations coming from people who happen to be Zulu speaking and happen to members of Inkatha.
POM Internationally, at least in the States over the last year, there has been an increasing propensity to look at the violence in the Transvaal as being Xhosa versus Zulu and just about a month ago The Economist ran an editorial which said that violence between Xhosas and Zulus in the Transvaal is really in essence no different than the violence between Serbs and Croatians in Yugoslavia. In other words they're saying it's an expression of ethnic violence that is the primary component of it. You would reject that?
TM I would reject that. You see if one traces the roots of the violence, and I think that there are distinguishing features in terms of the violence as it occurs in Natal and that which occurs in the Transvaal. In Natal you have a division between traditionalists who believe that the Chiefs being hereditary rulers of villages must therefore have the final say over the apportionment of whatever resources there are. And on the other hand, people who have heard the drum beat of democracy saying that service provision must be democratised. And if you look at the violence since about 1985 in Natal it has taken on pretty much that form. And that is why it is violence which occurs in rural areas. The initial dubbing of the violence was UDF/Inkatha violence and having been a member of the National Executive of the UDF we knew that there were many areas that didn't have a UDF presence but the violence was being dubbed as that. The Chiefs in order to insist on their hereditary rights then brought in, the Chiefs would be linked up by the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly to Inkatha, brought in people to defend their rights and you had this standard which unleashed the cycle. A fair amount of the killing which continues is linked into that cycle of vengeance. Now that violence has probably assumed, I mean seen more people killed over the period than what the violence Transvaal has. One must make the point that all the people concerned are Zulu speaking in Natal. A lot of it is of course linked to Inkatha and the role that the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly sees for itself. I mean it's traceable back to early 1984 in fact when students at the University of Zululand were attacked by an Inkatha band. It then manifested itself again in some urban areas like Lamontville where residents where resisting incorporation into KwaZulu and Zulu Impi were then brought in from other area like Lindilane. Those were the trigger mechanisms for the violence. The point about that violence is that until such time as you can resolve that important contradiction of the role of hereditary rulers or Chiefs within those communities you're going to be dealing with that violence. The violence in the Transvaal has always demonstrated itself in a very different way, demonstrated itself in kind of switch-on, switch-off mode which might be a very strong indication of it being engineered. If you did a closer analysis you would find that as soon as there was a measure of peace struck in one or other way, the way in which that would be undermined would be by an attack on a train or an attack on a taxi rank or something like that. And that is often trigger mechanism in terms of the violence in the Transvaal. Now one can cite, you should be able to cite Alexandra as a kind of case. Alexandra was a township, bear in mind that it has vast squatter areas and is very densely populated. It has always had people who speak different languages, come from different parts of the country, and through that period of violence which started in August/September last year it was completely unaffected. The Mayor who happens to be Sotho speaking, Prince Mokwena(?), joined Inkatha.
POM The Mayor who was Sotho speaking joined Inkatha?
TM Yes. He joined Inkatha as part of a move of a number of Mayors. This guy is also head of an organisation which was exposed as being funded now, called UCASA, Urban Councils Association of South Africa. And there is very clear evidence of people being brought into hostels and then you have attacks on a section of a squatter camp, pretty small sections. People move in, the residents take flight, the invaders occupy and they take over whatever furniture and so on people might have in the shacks. People go and report it to the police and the police do nothing about it and then you have another attack on the squatter camp and so you have a base being built up. And then you have other kinds of attacks as well. You have people at a vigil, I think this was in about April, people at a vigil, you have violence in the township, you have some people killed. There's a vigil for a schoolboy. These people happen to be Venda speaking.
The son however was aligned to the Congress of South African Students. At midnight about 200 armed men arrive at the house and people are scared. The call the police who arrive after some time, there's a curfew in the area at that time. They arrive, they leave after a few minutes saying there's no danger. The armed men return with automatic rifles and they mow down people in this marquee attached to the house and 30 people are killed. It remains an unsolved murder. And intense negotiations and threats and little incidents but finally a measure of peace. Last weekend Inkatha decide to go on a clean-up campaign of the township and they have black refuse bags and all of that. No refuse is collected but a number of people are stabbed as they run through the township. And over the past few days people have now been killed again in Alex. I think that one must ask the question, and I think the Sunday Star did in one article, why did people of different ethnic backgrounds continue to live cheek by jowl and unaffected by the high point of what has been described as ethnic conflict in the Transvaal during the latter half of last year? And what started to change that this year?
POM Was the growing presence of Inkatha?
TM The suggestion is that they were actually brought in there for the purpose because it becomes an important part of that destabilising mechanism. The points about Mozambican refugees being used as part of Defence Force operations primarily linked to the five reconnaissance units being found jobs as waiters in Natal and so on as a cover, being housed within Johannesburg central, within various townships, all of those kinds of stories, and evidence is now coming to light. I think that one must also take account of the fact that the attacks on trains are so indiscriminate that they fall outside of any ethnic framework at all. Now I think my bottom line on this one is that one cannot deny the fact that in ethnic terms, given extended family systems and a range of other things, once triggered there is a propensity for a cycle of vengeance. And having established that, there are little triggers that set off the whole process. One of the people involved in Military Intelligence who came over, this was certainly in April of this year, towards the end of April, exposed how Military Intelligence had in fact in Natal taken responsibility for 2 important deaths. The death of an Inkatha warlord who was also a member of the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly, and the death of a Chief who was ANC aligned. Now the former death was done in such a manner that it was pretty safe to assume that the ANC had taken responsibility and the latter that Inkatha was actually responsible for the killing of that Chief. And you set the scene. So those kinds of pieces fitting into this jigsaw I think tends to take one away from the fact that the violence is as inherently ethnic as that between Serbs and Croatians.
POM That it isn't, or that it is?
TM I'm saying it takes one away from that paradigm. I think that over the years, as far back as 1976 in Cape Town, you had a section of Xhosa speaking people known as Mmbatha(?) who come from a particular area of the North Eastern Transkei just south of Pondoland, used in attacks from hostels on residents on Guguletu in Cape Town. In Soweto it took a similar format in 1976 and it is interesting to note that Buthelezi addressed workers at the hostels in Umzumhlope(?) in 1976 after which there were attacks from those hostels on surrounding residents. So I think that it has, given the fact that in hostels and so on, people have been ethnically divided. I mean a lot of the violence on the mines which doesn't form part of the present pattern and cycle but has been going on for decades now, occurs because of the circumstances in which people are divided in those hostels on the mines and so on.
POM Divided on an ethnic basis?
TM Yes, yes. And you may have a fight between individuals from different hostels over a woman and that then triggers hostel against hostel conflict. So, yes, it's actually hell of a complex, but I think that the bottom line is that so much of this is engineered right now.
POM If one were to rate violence on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being that it is totally ethnic and 1 being that it's totally non-ethnic, where would it fall?
TM I would say about 3½ to 4.
POM One thing intrigues me and these questions are kind of related, that if you go back to 1967, taking 1967 as a starting point, in Africa as a whole there has been no transfer of power form one elected government to another elected government, either the states become one-party states or one party enjoys such a monopoly of power that it's really not democracy, it's just re-electing itself. Why do you think that it might be different in South Africa?
TM I think that you have a situation here where there is a lot more sophistication at a number of levels. Be it the sophistication that manifests itself in the extent of industrialisation in South Africa or the sophistication that comes in the way of organisational form. Now it's interesting to note, recently somebody did a comparative analysis between the conferences of ANC and Inkatha which both occurred in July. We conducted our election by secret ballot in a means which was very widely applauded because everything was above board. The independence of the Electoral Commission was clearly very highly impressive and I think that the signal that came with it was that it inspired confidence. Inkatha on the other hand had their elections conducted by Mdlalose, the Chairperson of Inkatha, who got up and said 'OK, will all those opposed to Chief Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi as President of Inkatha please stand?'. And that is how the President and the rest of the Inkatha leadership become his appointees. And it's actually quite irritating when by and large the press misses out on those kinds of points because they are so enamoured with Buthelezi.
POM Do you think the press is enamoured with Buthelezi?
TM I think largely, yes, yes. I mean for instance we took a hammering because a lot of our conference was conducted behind closed doors and there were certain open sessions, but we would insist that it is necessary to conduct very delicate discussions outside of the glare of TV cameras and so on. Buthelezi had so much of his closed, not a word about that. It's almost as though it's expected of him. It's almost as though that form of election was expected of him.
POM Well, are you being held to a higher standard because in a sense you are perceived as a government-in-waiting?
TM I think that on other levels as well we come clean with our broader mistakes. I mean I refer back to this conference and even our economic policy documents, we have placed it before the country, we have debated it with the captains of industry, at times with members of the government, Cabinet ministers and so on. There has been a lot of movement since the conference. I think that our positions may be less fixed and firm but at the same time from the side of the captains of industry one hears them now talking about the redistribution of wealth. Now we may not be talking the same language but it's a very different language that they're talking. And that's positive about the process. And so to our Bill of Rights, it's a draft. It has not even been endorsed by our membership as yet because we haven't had time at our conferences. We hope to do it by December. But at the same time it is there. We're willing to debate it with anybody, we're willing to receive input from any South African on its contents. And some of the issues entrenched there, entrenched in our constitutional principles and so on, include multi-party democracy. I think that the way in which the process is unfolding now bodes well.
POM You're saying that the process unfolds the way that you would want it to unfold, that that precludes a failure of democracy or the failure of what has occurred in other parts of Africa?
TM You see the real difficulty will come immediately after that because we're dealing with such a severe accumulated backlog in service delivery and such high expectations. And the way in which a future government deals with that problem becomes very important because failure to understand will mean that you are going to have an explosion and the worst thing that can happen because it could signal the start of riots would be to deploy troops against hungry people. And that is what makes the other projects like broad agreements of confidence in the economy and ensuring that you can maximally take people along in understanding that a government doesn't just take all its money and build houses but has to do other things and so on. It becomes very, very important because it tempers people's expectations.
POM Do you think this strengthens the case for some kind of first elected government or elected parliament after the constitution is enacted should be as broadly based as possible so that it can do things by consensus, that it can address problems together, it doesn't become political fodder?
TB I think that's an extremely moot point because what it most important is that that government enjoys the confidence of people. And we've never had confidence of that kind. And if it enjoys confidence it enjoys trust if it has a fair amount of openness, if it inter-relates well it can in fact achieve far more than a very artificial coalition government could possibly achieve.
PAT I wonder how you get to that inspiration of trust and confidence given the scenario which you have hinted about the exceeding expectation of what people expect from this new government and of the past?
TM I think that merely underscores why process is so important. Committees of wise men could very easily write up the same constitution that a Constituent Assembly could, but that process becomes important. And I think that in little ways we've started testing. In the run up to our July conference, for instance, we had embarked on very intensive education in terms of policy formulation.
POM You were saying, Trevor, that you have at one level an association of economists.
TM But the bulk of them are academics. They talk in terms of fiscal drag and those kinds of issues which don't make sense to ordinary people like myself. We've had for the use of other service organisations processes of work-shopping those economists to demystify a lot of what they are saying. We then convened them, I think there were four weekend workshops, the representatives of different branches to work through the draft document, bringing it back, have people make inputs and so on. And the people coming from branches are not economists. They may have a slight bent in that direction and that is why they were sent. But those things in some instances have actually gone back to branches and in other instances a few branches convened and discussed those documents.
Now it's still only at the level of documents but it laid a basis for them taking it the next step to ensuring that people understand apportionment of resources. It then becomes incumbent upon those people to not only make input and it's also been tested in little ways. Part of that kind of training is role play where people have a budget and have to decide whether to put money into education, housing or job creation and they really debate and grapple with these issues and say, 'But we need to get more money from elsewhere', but in defining the rules of the game they only have so much and it's for the first time that people are grappling with these kinds of issues. They leave there very confused but if you sit with them again you have a strong sense that people are beginning to grapple with these realities and would be willing to explain these to other people and in the process you're dealing with questions of expectations. So that you're not saying all of the socio-economic problems go on to the back burner, but you are asking people, however minimal, however minuscule the level at which their point of entry is in relation to where high powered economists are at, but that becomes very, very important. And it depends on the availability of resources. One difficulty that we have is that it's a lot easier to undertake that kind of project in densely populated urban areas than to replicate it in rural areas. But those things will come. I think it does, from where I'm sitting, instil one with a sense of confidence about capacity.
POM So you are saying that by attempting to involve people in process at every stage you have them incrementally adjust their own expectations to the knowledge they are gaining from their involvement in the process?
TM There are issues that remain very difficult and I think of those issues is that negotiations once started develop a momentum of their own and that it's not emerging from negotiations with a list of demands that you entered the negotiations that occur. In fact the overlap of membership of the trade unions is often very useful to us in those terms because many of them would have been fed information about how negotiations, even if there are wage negotiations involved, in terms of their decisions about minima and what emerges from the process even after strikes and so on. But that remains conceptually difficult for people, why you should still be relenting and compromising to a white minority regime that does not care about their lives at all. But I think that we're getting there and that becomes very, very important.
POM Just a couple of last questions Trevor. Thank you for the amount of time you've taken. The SACP/ANC alliance, from our conversations this is posing a problem to some people who would otherwise be unequivocal supporters of the ANC but wouldn't know whether they could vote for the ANC tomorrow morning because of the alliance. Is this just among white liberals that there's this - or is it among black rural communities, among the Coloured community, among Indians?
TM I think that there are fears at a number of levels. Fears emanating from - there's actually an interesting paradox in some ways where because communism has been so demonised by the very same people who have oppressed and denied that people feel that they should have an affinity with the communists. From what I have just been able to pick up recently in rural areas of the Eastern Cape the Communist Party is actually growing very fast. But there are other concerns. There are concerns about religious freedom and often these concerns are more class based than they are racially based, they are about property rights and those kinds of issues. I think it's a situation that we in the ANC are very mindful of and need to continually review, reassess. Circumstances of great inequality in South Africa does mean that amongst the disadvantaged it's going to be less of an issue. So essentially it's something that we have to repeatedly ...
POM My question is that if the Communist Party stands for ending white dominance, establishing a democratic, non-racial South Africa, helping the oppressed, redistributing income, giving people equal access, well these are all the things that the ANC stands for too, so why the need for two organisations?
TM Yes. I think that what the Communist Party also says is that at this phase there is very little distinction between where it is at and where the ANC's at. However, in a democratic situation they would go off and continue to work for a socialist oriented South Africa.
POM They would have a more radical agenda?
TM Yes, yes.
PAT Is this a line currently offered in a situation in which they don't have to define exactly what that future is for them, in which they are not held perhaps to the same standards that the ANC is or that other political organisations are?
TM It certainly offers them one advantage. It could also be in their interests to see the ANC trying to maximise gains for workers. But I think inclusion of a Workers' Charter in the Bill of Rights - it is of course a very old alliance but it's probably so peculiar to South Africa.
POM Do you think that by the time of a Constituent Assembly, if there were an election for a Constituent Assembly that people then would have to decide whether to become a member of the Communist Party or a member of the ANC as a political party?
TM I think that might be the start of that process where people have to make hard choices. Clearly the Communist Party from what one can discern is also grappling with issues of its own existence.
POM Two last questions. One is on the issue of an interim government. One sees two models out there: one is the government resigns, surrenders its sovereignty and a broad interim government of all political parties is formed. That's the ANC model. Then you have the one in which the present government brings in people from other political parties, gives them portfolios, sets up joint committees or responsibility or whatever. That's the government's model. Can you imagine any circumstances under which this government would actually resign, surrender its sovereignty? In effect they would be saying 'We're handing over'.
TM A lot hinges on a range of opinions and support mechanisms, various crutches and struts that do exist for the government. It's interesting to note for instance that in the days immediately after the open letter editorials across the country were declaring the ANC as mad, suggesting an interim government was completely ludicrous. Since the unbanning it was probably the period of the most intent anti-ANC editorials. A few weeks later, after Inkathagate, the same newspapers echoed the call for an interim government. Now it does indicate a marked shift of opinion and it also indicates a decided fickleness. But a lot of it is circumstantial and one cannot read this only in terms of the determination or will of the government alone. It's also the circumstances in which it operates. So one doesn't want to do any crystal ball gazing on these kinds of issues, but clearly our task is to try and win that interim government. This ties back into that first point that you raised, the very first question that you raised about perspectives passing each other. For us it is pretty much a question of continuing to struggle for and trying to win what we believe are fundamental elements of the process.
POM As this is part of an historical record and won't be published for years, if I were to put the question in terms of a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the government resigning and an interim government being formed along the lines that the ANC wants, and 1 being the government holding as much power to itself for as long as possible and sharing even in an interim period, where would you rank the probability of the government resigning?
TM Now? Today? I think we're probably on about 7 on that scale now.
POM That would be 7? What did I say, 10 was?
TM 10 is the upper side. 10 is the government resigning.
POM OK. You think you're seven tenths of the way there.
POM Finally the PAC and the right wing. I mean the right wing in terms of first the Conservative Party. This time last year there was a lot of speculation about how support for the CP was growing and if there was another whites-only election they might win over 50% of the white vote. We've heard much less talk of that this time. Is the CP becoming more marginalised, refusing to come into the process or is it still a very potent threat?
TM I think it remains a potent threat in its own right because in terms of the phase of negative economic growth that we're in, all sections of the population are affected and whites, especially those at the bottom end of the white scale, fear losing their privilege, fear being sold out by de Klerk. And so if one uses the indicators of various by-elections that have been held, and municipal elections in some instances, and they give a very different indication from just the polls conducted, it appears as though there is continuing growth for the CP. However, and I think, yes, perhaps Treurnicht's statement yesterday speaks of this as well, the fact that it's alliance with the AWB doesn't wash well with the kind of constituency it wants to attract. It may actually drive it away, because Treurnicht was saying that they have to move away from violence. So I think that the AWB and the lunatic right fringe have far less capacity and, yes, may be a bit of an albatross around the neck of the Conservative Party today.
POM Finally, you mentioned about how part of the government strategy has been to build up Buthelezi and turn into a trio of three men really being the primary actors in this affair. Do you think Inkathagate has whittled him down, that that part of the government strategy is now in tatters?
TM Yes, yes.
POM And what has it done to Buthelezi's status in the larger black community?
TM I think that he has been exposed. I mean there are still a number of other issues. A lot of money is being conduited through the KwaZulu Legislative Assembly which proportionately gets more money than other Bantustan governments. But I think in terms of credibility he's taken a very serious knock.
POM Two other things that I just thought of. One, the ANC addressed at its conference the fact that it was failing to draw the level of support it thought it would get from the Coloured community, the white community and the Indian community. Is there a tendency for the ANC to be increasingly seen as an urban African party? Why would it have trouble in those communities, particularly, say, the Coloured community even more so than the Indian community?
TM I think that the notion of violence and that being an essential by-product of majority rule has scared a lot of people. Inkathagate has actually significantly changed. If one just looks at the turnout at meetings in Coloured areas just recently where capacity to recruit new members was quite significant, it's provided a signal that so much of this was engineered and people have been willing to come and listen. At another level one must also look at it in relation to an earlier period when there was a lot of mass activity in Coloured areas under the UDF. People's responses even to the nature of the PW Botha regime, the way in which it manifested oppression, denial, de Klerk gives different signals and I think that rather than aligning themselves with de Klerk there's a lot of waiting and seeing. One of the major mistakes that de Klerk has made in relation to the Coloured community was to take discredited former Labour Party members as his point of entry into the communities which drives a hard wedge between where de Klerk is at and where the National Party is. And I think that may result in a significant turnaround in support.
But I think a more important feature in all of this is subjectively, my observations from the Coloured community which I know reasonably well, especially the Peninsula community, is that the state of emergency had so knocked people and a number of activists actually withdrew as a result of the state of emergency and we're only just struggling to get that show back on the road. It's also manifested in other forms. In May of 1986 we had a National Civic conference, as the UDF, to initiate the process towards the formation of a National Civic Organisation. It's only now that the process has reached exactly the same point where it was in 1986. It's the emergency and the total effect of that which has actually set that whole process back.
Now in terms of the Coloured community one is beginning to sense a similar kind of approach. It isn't going to get any easier in some respects because the thrust of so much taking place in relation to addressing socio-economic needs relates to providing for the poorest of the poor. And so even though you're sitting with a major backlog in housing for Coloureds, I don't know offhand what the figure is in the City Council area but it may be as high as 40 thousand families, there is no prospect of even a matchbox house because you can't distinguish and provide matchbox houses to Coloureds because this is what they've been accustomed to, and service sites for Africans on which they can erect shacks. And so the notions of loss of even that minimal privilege which had accrued to Coloureds under apartheid is actually going to be an extremely hard nut to crack.
POM Do you think the National Party may therefore think in terms of saying, 'Gee we could win an election. We could cobble together a coalition, the Coloured community, the Indian community, Inkatha and there's this Brigadier Gqozo starting his own political movement in the Transkei and we could have a broad coalition', that they would think of this as an active strategy to which they might be working towards?
TM This has clearly been part of it and I think it is that that took a very hard knock, because it's not the National Party funding, it's not the National Party going to the European Community and saying, 'Fund us to assist in this process'. It is the National Party using government resources covertly for that agenda. What we've done in respect of the Patriotic Front has been to talk to the PAC, to set up a joint committee to seek funding from the Patriotic Conference. And that show now gets under way. But you're playing at a very different level. You're open about that. But what the government needs are respectable, credible leaders from within those constituencies. And if they are going to choose Rajbansi from the Indian community, I mean immediately it comes down. And in the Coloured community they just don't have those respectable people, or respected people with credibility. And however much money they try and pump in it's just not going to heal the differences in the short term.
Recently I was speaking to people in Namaqualand (it's the area just south of the Orange River/Namibian border). They're Coloured peasants who live on Coloured trust lands and what the government with the assistance of the Labour Party tried to do in about 1987 was to privatise this trust land that people have been farming communally for generations. And people challenged this decision in court and they were successful and these people who serve on Management Boards, the Labour Party members, continued to deviously try and ensure that the land could be privatised in various ways. And their response, I quizzed a number of people on how they see the National Party, and they say, 'But these are the same people who tried to take away our land'. What has changed about that? They're now more open about their National Party affiliation. We knew it was there then and this was quite a response from the same people who said to me, 'What are you talking about, Constituent Assembly and so on? It's very good. But tell us how we're going to get our land back which was stolen.' I mean, that kind of thing.
In other parts of the Karoo people have said that one thing is that racism and oppression go hand in hand and it's very naked, very brutal. And so people are saying, and bear in mind that the average wage in that part of the Cape, and this is for people who are employed and they are in the minority, is about R5-50 a day. And they are saying, 'But now why do we want to get into the same political party with these people who caused so much hardship, who don't care two hoots about us, who denied us, who beat us on the farms, who show no respect for us? How can we get into the same political party?' And these are Coloured people responding in this way. So I think that in terms of our low membership figures in the Coloured community, there's actually a lot more flux than first meets the eye.
POM And lastly to follow up on last year, you talked about giving a speech at some company, business breakfast, and how when you were finished all people were concerned about was nationalisation and they came up to you and begin to say, 'Would it mean that our cars would be taken away and our houses would be taken a way and all our possessions taken?' Is there less fear of that, is there a better understanding among whites?
TM I think there is a much better understanding of that now. I was talking about the growing confluence in terms of economic policy. We've really not been meaning the same things when we talk of the redistribution of wealth. But when the South African Chamber of Business lists that as one of the priorities for the economy then you've actually covered a lot of ground. And that is the situation now. I mean there's so much movement in terms of those kinds of measures.
PAT It's a question of time versus process, there was so much invested in the process of participation, so you feel that you're running against a clock, de Klerk's time clock of 1994, 1995, or can that be sacrificed, another white election?
TM I think that it's an issue that de Klerk understands well enough that he cannot go back to the white electorate and ask to be voted back into power. And it means that we actually have to get the show on the road. You have to get the process through in that time frame that's defined.
POM What I think Patricia is asking is, is it more important to you that it be done right, that is that this involvement of the people, that they are involved in every stage of the process. That you bring them along with you, that you dampen the expectations, that they feel part of what is going on even if that takes more time it's a more important route to take than to go quicker, run against a deadline and don't really do it in the way that you would want to. And then you'd have to live with the consequences of the first government having all kinds of problems because it didn't bring it's constituency with it.
TM I want to make the point that they are not separate processes and we do two things in attaining this. We build our base, we extend our reach, we open our policy discussions while simultaneously continuing to engage the government. I think that all parties are locked into that kind of thing. And the group that will be most successful is the group with the best infrastructure and principles to be able to take people along. That I think is going to be the acid test.
POM Thank you very, very much for giving us so much time.